Monthly Archives: November 2011

Looking at me looking at you

How do we see our children?  How do we want to see our children?  And how do they see themselves in our lives?

My friend told me today that she had unearthed receipts from the photographer she had commissioned to take high school graduation photos of her son before he graduated.  The school path had been rocky, and these photos manifested her dream for her son to graduate. The best photographer in town captured him in multiple poses, in different outfits, in black and white, in color, in sizes large and small.  They were incredibly expensive.  They were a lovely tribute to her son and to her dream, which didn’t come true because he spent Graduation Day in rehab.

She recently realized that the photos made her home a shrine to the idealized child she wanted her son to be, not the kid he truly is, wrinkles and all.  (Love the child, hate the addiction.) She has decided to remove some of them to create more balance in her life and more space for her other passions.

And it’s probably healthier for all if her son doesn’t view himself as the center of the universe.  Teen substance abuse creates tremendous egoism -– Me!  Me!  Me! among our teens.  Did the photo gallery bolster that selfish preoccupation?  Hard to say…but it is clear that the way we position our children in our homes (literally and figuratively) can reflect a healthy involvement or an unhealthy obsession with them.  Their photos can be a mirror into our souls.

I can work on happy or I can work on miserable…same work!

Al-Anon meetings tend to get full this time a year. This time of year I start seeing people show up who had stopped coming for a long time or newcomers who are desperately searching. The same core group fortunately keeps showing up too. This time of year, it seems, we all begin a familiar descent into anxious dread of the holiday season. Reasons are as varied as the personalities. But there is one common theme: The Family Disease of Alcoholism. The days are getting darker and colder. Memories of a better time or longing for a different future begin to consume my mind and I find myself easily turning gold into copper, seeing my glass half empty, getting comfortable with my self-willing pessimistic attitude…

We say in meetings “stick around for the miracles.” For me it was not at the meeting per se, but the drive home. Prior to it, my friend and I had spent the last few hours feeding each other small nuggets of encouragement while defaulting in and out of our complimentary nit picking of the world-at-large. The meeting topic was a tough one for newcomers and we both were guilty of harboring some expectations. The people behind us were rudely chatting and our sneers of disapproving posturing did nothing to change it. There was a lot of miserable in the room but there was recovery too. After the meeting I continued interacting with others noticing the dramatic and wondering why.

Then on the drive home my friend says “I relish the snap in the air and colder weather…this is my favorite time of year…I’m going to really try and enjoy …I like holiday lights and glow…” BINGO!!

This was my miracle, my Higher Power spoke through her. CRYSTAL CLEAR THE SKY PARTED AND THE LIGHT SHINED ON THE MESSAGE: I can work on miserable or I can work on happy – it’s the same work! And both cannot be together. The Power is within us – the choice is mine.  I’m still smiling about this! Thank you dear friend!


Stop the insanity

As the mother of a teen who got sucked into the vortex of addiction, I am so frustrated by the lack of education and awareness in our community. That void of information demands that we be ever vigilant and demand solutions that keep drugs away from our kids. And there’s a great opportunity on our doorstop.

Tish Westrup a mother who lost her beautiful daughter to heroin, told me about a critical anti-drug task force in Southern California that is on the chopping block. This task force confiscated $17 billion worth of marijuana from California forests in 2010. This task force that has kept millions of heroin fixes from finding their way into our kids’ veins. You can’t tell me that this decision makes sense from any perspective: the fiscal and social costs of illicit drugs far outweigh any gains achieved by slashing an effective team of special agents.

Please—let your voice be heard about this insanity!  Read about the threatened cuts and watch the video here , and then sign the petition to keep the task force in action.

Giving thanks for addiction

With teen addiction in my family tree, Thanksgiving has the potential for myriad emotions:  trepidation, joy, chaos or gratitude, to name a few. Last year, with several years of recovery in our wake, I made note of my many blessings.  I try to say a prayer of gratitude every night before hitting the sack, but with Thanksgiving is just around the corner, I’d like to look back on what I wrote down last year about the holiday, which holds potential for both joy and chaos…if I let it.

I am thankful that my son has claimed a life of recovery, one day at a time.

I am thankful that people are beginning to understand addiction as a disease of the brain.

I am thankful that I discovered Al-Anon.

I am thankful for the friends that addiction has ushered into my life.

I am thankful for the opportunity to support others though their own child’s addiction.

I am thankful that my marriage survived our son’s addiction.

I am thankful that I have had the resources to help support my son’s recovery.

And thanks to addiction, I am appreciative of the perspective I’ve gained about what really counts in life.

Count your blessings…..and let me know what you are thankful for.

Over there…over here

Yesterday was Veterans Day, a day to respectfully acknowledge the contributions of our brave veterans over the years. I’d like to take this moment to thank them for their service to our country and to remind readers that so many of these vets are lugging home a duffle bag of PTSD, addiction and alcoholism.

During their service, many were propped up with speed, calmed down with Xanax and sedated with alcohol. They sustained brain injuries, lost limbs and suffer from unrelenting pain. They have PTSD.

When the Psychiatric Times surveyed 6527 US Army soldiers screened after returning from deployment to Iraq, 27% screened positive for alcohol misuse, and rates of drinking and driving and reporting late to duty because of hangovers were high. Exposures to life-threatening situations and to atrocities were significantly associated with a positive screen. How could they not want to be numb?

These are our children, our husbands and wives, our brothers and sisters. As a country whose citizens fought a war on our behalf, we need to keep these veterans in our thoughts and prayers and sight, and support them and their families with compassion and meaningful employment. I hope the same for all addicts, no matter how or why they became dependent on substance abuse to numb their pain.

It’s a dog’s life

While waiting at the vet today, I picked up an enchanting book called What Dogs Teach Us:  Life’s Lessons Learned from Our Best Friends by Glen Dromgoole.  I skimmed through the book and found that many of these life lessons apply to man and beast alike.  To wit:

  • “Appreciate the preciousness of life.”  Addiction gives us an ongoing opportunity to practice this concept, trying to find the rainbow in the storm clouds.  As they say, practice makes perfect.  Keep looking for that rainbow to appear.
  • “Good behavior should be reinforced with complements or rewards.” My natural instinct as a co-dependent worrier is to get stressed and cranky.  Thanks to addiction, I’ve come to learn the futility of idle speculation.  I now consciously wrestle my worry to the ground so that I can be more positive and complementary across the board.  I am happier because I am focusing on the positive; the people around me are happier because I am nicer. Win/win.
  • “Sassing back can make things worse.”  That goes both ways—you sass me/ I sass you, and we both lose.  The Al-Anon equivalent of this statement is “Spit out the hook” or “You don’t have to attend every fight you are invited to.”
  • “Run to the rescue of people in trouble.”  Uh oh. Maybe this natural instinct of mine wouldn’t be so problematic if I were Lassie or Rin Tin Tin, but rescuing people is bad for me and for them. This adage is healthy only if you are a dog or a paramedic.
  • “Co-dependency is OK as long as one of you has four legs.”  Amen to that!
  • And finally…“Take time to enjoy the smells and sounds and sights around us.” Life is short. If we mire ourselves in fruitless preoccupations about our loved one’s addictions, then our very own lives go passing by while we are looking the other way.

Don’t Worry, Be

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom; let it be. – John Lennon

An alcoholic in recovery talked about worry. All his problems for today will go away unless HE WORRIES them to STAY. Worry fuels problems! And implicit is his ability to control it.  I could not agree more!

Certain slogans come to mind that help me put into action; “Live and let live” or “Let Go and let God” put simply, “let it be.” In so doing, the current worrisome condition dissipates from my life shortly thereafter. It is my experience that to do this requires spiritual practice and trusting in something bigger than me to restore me to sanity – Step 2.

We all know what happens when we keep worrying. The worrisome attitude prevails and the problems take center stage. But if we turn it over, let it go, and edge it out, our thoughts soon fill with acceptance within the realm of where we are here and now. We open up and embrace the day – worry free.

…and when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me. Shine on until tomorrow, let it be. - JL


Sunday Inspiration

“If you are going to carry something everywhere, it might as well be hope.”

-David Colman

MYTH #1 Parents raise criminals

Photo from

I was recently flooded with memories of shame. Shame of irresponsibility as a parent because my child was doing drug and alcohol abuse which later progressed to addiction.  I felt responsible for all the things that were not right and getting worse.  The notion that I somehow caused the drug use and criminal activity my child was doing was very real back then. It was deeply rooted and it interfered with my ability to seek help. I worried about what to do and wished for “do-over’s” all the while wondering where I went wrong.

My recollection of these old feelings stemmed from a news flurry exposed in my community. The video flashed before me, a T-shirt for a police officer association fundraiser. It had large lettering “u raise ‘em, we cage em” around a picture of a young child behind bars. The community uproar and subsequent removal and condemnation of the person behind its concept soon followed. But the meaning behind the shirt brought back to my life the biggest MYTH of all: parents raise criminals. There are many facts about what causes drug addiction and many facts about the profile of those arrested. There just are no facts behind parents causing it. Some of us may be guilty of bad parenting, but even that doesn’t cause addiction. And how to accept that some people believe that children are raised to be criminals is not an easy level of tolerance, but today I subscribe to “what other people think of me is not my business”.

When I first came to an Al-Anon meeting, I could not hear much of what was being said – I was troubled and consumed with the problems around me. Soon after I heard about the 3 “C’s”You did not cause it, you cannot control it and you cannot cure it! This was the first time I had felt my shoulders loosen with relief from a burden I never owned – all based on  MYTH #1. Let’s BUST that MYTH. I choose to learn the truth and spend positive energy helping others, giving service and being kind.  Blaming and passing judgement in any direction just doesn’t work for me anymore!



The Panini Generation

The Sandwich Generation is a term used for the generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children. I got a good mental picture of that sandwich! This alone is a great responsibility, and there are articles and books written to address this growing concern. Around the same time it seems, we are beginning to see signs of our own aging transformations. It may include menopause, weight gain/loss, health concerns such as cancer, dental work, corrective lens, and so on. This population, if a homeowner, is more likely to be at a point where major home repair is due: that 30 year roof? Our jobs are at risk for major change or elimination and we are wondering how we can save for retirement and dream about those travel destinations. To add salt to the wound, the family pets are requiring multiple veterinary visits and end of life decisions…These are the normal sandwich generation issues that do not include addiction and the family disease.

I listened to one woman share her life change in a 7 year clip: The failing health of her dad, her aunt’s death, her husband’s stress disorder, and the roller coaster ride of her son’s progression in addiction. Though different from my own experience, it was symptomatic and parallel to my own. I thought about this “sandwich generation.” To have addiction in the family, we might as well call ourselves the Panini Generation: we are pressed to address the gorilla (addiction) in our home along with the accepted generational transformations of growing old. My mental picture was the sandwich pressed between two hot metal plates! It has been a daunting dilemma and one I could not do alone.

Change is coming. Support groups that adopt the 12-Step recovery of AA have been aware of the family disease and co-dependence issues for over 50 years. Public awareness, opinion and HELP is turning from anonymous to advertised OUTREACH to families. From grass-roots movements to multi-media platforms, help is getting easier to find. One such example is The Partnership at Drug – They recently launched “You are Not Alone” campaign. The purpose: “… helping the families of the 11 million American teens and young adults who need treatment for drug and alcohol abuse”.